Who are we?

Professor Laura Grenville-Briggs Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences UK and Sweden

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Laura Grenville-Briggs Didymus was educated at the Universities of Bath and Birmingham (PhD, 2003). After a post-doctoral period at the University of Aberdeen, and a Marie-Curie Intra-European Fellowship at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Laura joined the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) as an independent research fellow in 2014 and was appointed Professor of Integrated Plant Protection in 2018. Research in her group focuses on the molecular and genetic determinants of disease in oomycete and fungal plant pathogens in combination with molecular analysis of interactions between microbial biocontrol agents and their prey. The goal is to develop more durable, environmentally sustainable integrated pest management strategies for plant diseases that are applicable both for large-scale Swedish farmers and for smallholder farmers in Western Africa. Laura sits on the department and Faculty leadership boards, and the MPMI editorial board. In 2017 Laura co-organises the mentorship scheme Växa and leads the PROTECTA ITN training programme.



Associate Professor Johanna Witzell Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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Johanna Witzell obtained her PhD from the University of Eastern Finland (1998), and after post-doctoral training at RWTH Aachen, Germany, moved to the Umeå Plant Science Center in 1999. Johanna has been in her current position since 2006, at the Southern Swedish Forest Research Center, at SLU. between 2014-2016 she held the position of chair Professor of Wood Science at the University of Eastern Finland. Research in her group focuses on forest diseases, tree resistance and stress responses (with special interest in phenolic defensive compounds), functional traits of fungal endophytes of trees, Dutch elm disease and invasive Phytophthora-species. Johanna works at the interface between biology and forest management, e.g., how fertilization influences tree quality, how thinning influences fungal biodiversity, or how the fungal communities can influence tree resistance or regeneration success. She is Editor-in-chief of the Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research.



Associate Professor Erik Alexandersson Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences


Erik Alexandersson obtained his PhD from the University of Lund, Sweden (2006) and undertook his post-doctoral research at the university of Stellenbosch, South Africa. From 2007-2008 he worked as a Scientific Editor for BioMed Central Ltd, London. Since 2011, he has been an Associate Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. He is the director of PlantLink (www.plantlink.se), a collaboration between Lund University and SLU Alnarp to strengthen plant research in Southern Sweden and coordinator of NordPlant, a hub for sustainable agriculture and forest production in future nordic climates. Erik’s research group focuses on plant molecular biology studying the interaction between potatoes and pathogens as well as potato defense mechanisms both in the laboratory and in the field and on the biofortification of cassava. Focusing on molecular mechanisms of induced resistance and the practical application of resistance inducers, his group works both in Sweden and South Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia.



Associate Professor Elodie Gaulin Université de Toulouse, Paul Sabatier CNRS


Elodie Gaulin obtained her PhD from the University of Toulouse (2002), and carried out post-doctoral research at the Ohio State University, USA under the supervision of Sophien Kamoun. Since 2003 she has held a Maître de conferences (Associate lecturer) position at the Université de Toulouse, Paul Sabatier, Toulouse, France. Research in Elodie’s group aims to decipher the mechanism by which plant pathogenic oomycete cause diseases. She is interested in microbial molecules called effectors that are suspected to reprogramme the host cells to benefit the microorganism. One goal of the research is to characterize and identify the factors that drive Aphanomyces specialization on plant or animal hosts. The group mainly uses genomic and functionnal analyses to identify and characterize Aphanomyces sp. determinants of pathogenicity.


Professor Pieter van West University of Aberdeen

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Pieter was educated at Wageningen University in the Netherlands (PhD, 2000). His post-doctoral research was conducted at the University of Aberdeen, where he also held a Royal Society Fellowship from 2000-2006. In 2012 he was awarded a Chair in Mycology at the University of Aberdeen. He is currently the Microbiology Programme Lead in the College of Life Sciences & Medicine and the Director of the International Centre for Aquaculture Research and Development. He sits on the editorial board of the journal Fungal Biology. Research in his group is directed towards taxonomy, ecology, epidemiology, biochemistry, immunology, cellular and molecular biology of oomycete-host interactions to [1] understand and unravel fundamental molecular processes in oomycetes, [2] detect important and essential molecular targets, and [3] utilise these targets to develop novel control strategies. The animal pathogenic oomycetes under investigation are Saprolegnia parasitica, Saprolegnia australis, Saprolegnia diclina, Aphanomyces spp. and Halioticida spp.


Professor Bernard Dumas Université de Toulouse, Paul Sabatier III, CNRS France


Bernard Dumas obtained his PhD in 1990 from the Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg. He trained as a post-doc at Ghent University in the group of D. Inzé and M. van Montagu. Bernard is the Director of the Plant Science Research Laboratory (LRSV) in Toulouse and coordinator of the Joint laboratory BioPlantProducts with De SANGOSSE. His research group at the LRSV focuses on molecular mechanisms involved in oomycete pathogenicity, by using the legume model Medicago truncatula and the root pathogen Aphanomyces euteiches. In the frame of the BioPlantProducts lab, new strategies to protect plants against diseases are developed, notably by exploiting microbial strains and natural extracts.



Professor Steve Woodward University of Aberdeen


Prof Steve Woodward has a PhD from the University of London (1983) and currently holds a personal chair in the Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, at the University of Aberdeen, directing a research group working on fungi and Oomycete plant pathogens and saprotrophs. He has coordinated 5 large EU-funded projects, and is a member of the UK Government’s Task Force on Tree and Plant Health. He has also acted as a Trustee to the Scottish Forestry Trust and is Editor-in-chief of the journal Forest Pathology. Research in his lab focuses on alien invasive pathogens, their detection, the damage they cause, how they are spread globally and mitigation methods that can be used to reduce their impacts on natural ecosystems. The influence of rhizosphere microbiology and host physiology on the initiation and development of root diseases remains a research focus. A range of pathogen problems is under investigation, with a current focus on, Phytophthora and Pythium.


Professor May-Bente Brurberg Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU) Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO)


May Bente Brurberg has a PhD from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (1994) and since 2008 has held a 50% professorship in the department of plant sciences at the same university, as well as 50% employment as a researcher in molecular plant pathology at the Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO). Research in her group includes basic studies of pathogen biology, pesticide resistance, molecular diagnostics, barcoding and metabarcoding, as well as plant-pathogen interactions.





Associate Professor Vivianne Vleeshouwers Wageningen University and Research


Vivianne Vleeshouwers obtained her PhD at Wageningen UR (2001). She started her research group at WUR Plant Breeding, Wageningen University and became assistant professor since 2013. She developed effector-assisted breeding for late blight resistance in potato. After building up an extensive collection of well-characterized wild Solanum germplasm, an effectoromics approach was pioneered with effectors of Phytophthora infestans. Her research was expanded to apoplastic immunity and the first potato pathogen recognition receptor was identified. The research objective of Vivianne’s lab is understanding the molecular interaction between potato and its pathogens, in particular the oomycete P. infestans, with the ultimate goal to achieve a more durable and broad-spectrum resistance in potato. By exploiting effectors of the late blight pathogen P. infestans and the early blight pathogen Alternaria solani the team conducts studies at the interface of molecular plant-microbe interactions with field and resistance breeding.



Associate Professor Anna-Maria Vettraino University of Tuscia


Anna Maria has PhDs in Microbial Ecology (1996) and Plant Pathology (2000) and has been awarded post-doctoral scholarships from Hebrew University, Jerusalem-Israel, Department – Messeweg- Braunschweig- Germany, Institute of Forest Botany- Freising- Germany, Michigan State University (USA) and University of California- Berkeley (USA). She won the SIPAV Award for young researchers funded by the Italian Society of Plant Pathology (SIPAV), and has worked as an FAO consultant in the framework of Italy-Nepal cooperation projects. She is Professor of Plant Pathology and Biotechnology Research projects in her group are related to the monitoring and commissioning of fungal and oomycete disease control systems both in natural forest environments and in nurseries.




Professor Renier van der Hoorn University of Oxford

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Renier van der Hoorn holds a PhD in Molecular Phytopathology from Wageningen University and Research (2000) and carried out post-doctoral research both at Wageningen and at the Sainsbury Laboratory, UK. He initiated the Plant Chemetics lab in October 2005 at the Max Planck Institutes of Cologne and Dortmund in Germany. Since October 2013 he is Associate Professor and since 2017 Full Professor at the Department of Plant Sciences of the University of Oxford. The Plant Chemetics lab headed by Renier van der Hoorn, investigates the molecular mechanisms underpinning host manipulation by plant pathogens, with a particular focus on apoplast manipulation of Solanaceous plants by bacterial and oomycete microbes. The research activities also aim at improved molecular pharming of secreted (glyco)proteins through the depletion of extracellular proteases. The unique approach is to display protein activities by pioneering activity-based protein profiling (ABPP), a powerful functional proteomics technology.




Dr Louise Holmquist Maribohilleshög


Louise Holmquist completed her PhD at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in 2018, where she investigated genomic and molecular analysis of Rhizoctonia solani and sugar beet responses to this disease. She is an expert in sugar beet genetics and pathology. She worked as a plant pathologist for Syngenta, Sweden from 2007-2017, and has been the trait introgression leader at Sugar beet breeding company MariboHilleshög Research AB since 2018. MariboHilleshög Research is a subsidiary company of Danish plant breeding company DLF. MariboHilleshög conducts research into the development of new breeding lines in sugar beet and research led by Louise Holmquist supports the creation of breeding lines with new desirable traits using modern molecular and genetic breeding approaches.




Dr Michiel de Vries Solynta


Michiel de Vries obtained his PhD in 2011 from Wageningen University and Research in The Netherlands, where he investigated Adaptive management of irrigated rice in the changing environments of the Sahel. He has studied Strategic Research and Development Management at INSEAD and worked as an Agronomist at the African Rice Center in St Louis, Senegal. From 2009-2015 he was Head of Research and Plant Breeding at Joordens Zaden AB, in the Netherlands, and has worked at Solynta since 2015, first as an Agronomist and Plant pathologist and since 2018 as Research Team Lead. Research interests at Solynta in the breeding team led by Michiel de Vries focus on the development of elite parent lines for breeding in potato. Using these elite parent lines, breeders can quickly combine favourable traits from different potato varieties, such as disease resistance, stress tolerance, improved nutrition, increased yields, improved taste, and other traits of value to consumers, farmers and processors.